Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Orkish synchronicity

Today, searching for an appropriate picture to illustrate a post about the Blood War, I ended up at a site about D&D and read a longish but somehow interesting article by James Haeck called "Your Campaign Setting Needs Orcs." I'm not sure why that one caught my eye -- I haven't had anything to do with D&D since my teens and certainly wasn't wondering whether or not my campaign setting needed orcs. I didn't read anything else on the site, just that one.

Some of Haeck's points seemed almost philosophical, worth noting as possibly having applicability beyond the world of role-playing games. You need orcs because you need a force of chaos.

Every D&D world needs a force of chaos to prevent the great nations of the world from simply conquering your setting and filling all the corners of the map. Exploration is a core tenet of Dungeons & Dragons, and chaos that keeps the forces of order in check make it possible for the heroes to explore the untamed wilderness and long-lost dungeons. Orcs are one way of keeping civilization from pushing too deep into uncharted territory, or at least forcing the settlements in that territory from developing into major cities.

And you need orcs because you need the power of the gods -- other gods.

Orcs are connected so closely to their pantheon that they are almost like a divine plague let loose upon the world. The Monster Manual even describes their clans as plague-like, as a tribe of creatures like bloodlust personified. . . . Orcs are a perfect way to introduce your characters to the power of gods beyond those that they worship.


Shortly after reading that, I checked a few blogs, including Vox Popoli, where I found a link to an article called "When Orcs were Real," which presents an argument by Danny Vendramini that ogres and trolls and all their equivalents in other cultures represent a racial memory of Homo neanderthalensis.

The real question is why -- why does every civilization have similar myths? Why does every culture have legends of monstrous humanoids, and why are they are always depicted as fearsome and dangerous?

Because the legends were real. The orcs were real.

The article outlines the latest view of Neanderthals as savage carnivorous apex predators, as smart as us and much more powerful, that preyed on humans and almost drove us to extinction -- forcing us to develop into apex predators ourselves and drive them to extinction.

I don't think the "racial memory" theory quite works, though. As the article says, every culture has legends about monstrous humanoids, but Neanderthals only ever existed in Europe and West Asia. Africans in particular have zero Neanderthal DNA in their genomes and, as far as we can tell, zero history of interaction with Neanderthals. If Vendramini's hypothesis is correct, we would expect "orc" folklore to be absent in Africa. It's not, though; see "What's a ghommid?"

I do like the idea of calling Neanderthals "orcs," though. "Hobbit" has already taken off as a nickname for H. floresiensis, so why not?


When I lived in Maryland (age 8-11), my siblings and I all took it for granted that there were "orcs" living near our home, sometimes coming into our basement. We left them gifts -- berries mostly, and sometimes distinctive-looking pebbles -- and as often as not these disappeared. At one point we tried to open communications by leaving out slips of paper with runes on them. (We couldn't read the runes, but figured they might be able to.) The notes always disappeared, but we never got any notes in return. Not that we could have read them anyway.

Horseshoes, leatherleafs, and inattentional blindness

There's a series of Japanese horror films that my wife likes to watch. Each one is supposedly a collection of "found footage" of fairly boring scenes -- two people talking in their apartment, someone jogging in the park, a guy walking around in a parking garage, etc. At the end of each clip (each lasting maybe five to ten minutes), it stops and a voice-over says (in Japanese) "Did you see that?" And of course you didn't see anything out of the ordinary, so it replays part of the clip, and then a shorter part, and then in slow motion -- until finally you catch it: some extremely unsubtle and ought-to-be-obvious CGI "ghost," the kind of thing that would be a jump-scare in a normal horror movie but here, with no dramatic music and no reaction from the human characters, is almost never even noticed by the viewer until maybe the second or third replay. Once you've seen it, it's obvious. If you go back and watch the whole scene again, the ghost jumps right out at you (in two senses!) and you can't believe you didn't see it before. It's like a horror version of those Where's Wally? books.

And I guess it's pretty effective as horror (I have to guess, lacking the being-scared-by-horror-movies gene myself). I mean, the idea that a super-scary ghost could be right there in front of your face and you wouldn't even notice it -- isn't that kind of frightening?


A week ago I was reading Whitley Strieber's Solving the Communion Enigma, and he described how some people (including, he says, the late Gurdjieffian Joseph C. Stein) can make themselves invisible by exploiting these quirks of human attention.

I have known people who were able to seemingly disappear before one's eyes. How did they do it? By being aware that attention is not continuous but a wave form, and not only that, when groups of people come together, their attention soon becomes entrained. If you know how, you can watch groups of people, even whole stadiums full of people, wax and wane together.

I'm not quite sure I buy this -- wouldn't they notice you when their attention waxes again? -- but the general concept of "attentional invisibility" (demonstrated for example in the famous Invisible Gorilla experiment) is certainly well documented.

This Strieber passage stuck in my memory because just after reading it, I read Bruce Charlton's post "How do modern people choose evil?" which featured some very similar wording.

The mass media is directed at manipulation of mass-scale emotions and motivation by attracting and holding attention, and shaping (entraining) attitudes, thoughts, actions by means of mechanisms both explicit (hard sell, Big Lies) and implicit (soft sell, tendentious reasoning on the basis of hidden and denied assumptions).

Aside from the synchronicity of juxtaposing "attention" and "entrain," Bruce is talking in part about an extreme example of inattentional blindness: the unaccountable failure of nearly everyone to notice the extremely obvious -- jump-scare-ghost obvious, gorilla-on-a-basketball-court obvious -- fact that there has been a worldwide totalitarian coup.

If something is just too bizarre, too unexpected, too hard to fit into one's understanding of the world, we simply filter it out of our perceptions.


Last night I was on one of my nocturnal rambles and was thinking about all of this, and about a story my brother Luther once told about horseshoe crabs. A group of friends had been walking on a rocky beach for some time when one of them noticed a horseshoe crab among the rocks. Once that one crab had been noticed, everyone suddenly noticed that there were actually horseshoe crabs all over the beach and that they had simply failed to notice them before, their brains having been inattentively processing them as rocks.

As I walked through the dark neighborhood, I thought to myself, "I'm going to notice something. I'm going to keep my eyes open, expect the unexpected, and see something that had been invisible."

It's really hard to "try to notice something" when you have no idea what it might be that you're supposed to notice, but I did my best -- and found nothing. I was just on the point of giving up when, about a quarter-mile from my home, something finally caught my eye: Did I just see a pair of tiny tentacles retract into that dead leaf?

Indeed I had. On closer inspection, the leaf turned out to be a very strange sort of slug that I had never seen before, shaped like a dead leaf and with very discreet tentacles. I looked it up when I got home and found that it was a specimen of the aptly named tropical leatherleaf. In over 16 years of rambling around Taiwan at night, I had never seen one.

Will I start seeing them all the time now?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Joyfully, joyfully marching

One of the hymns I grew up singing as a Mormon was "We Are All Enlisted," from the 1866 hymnal The New Golden Chain of Sabbath School Melodies. The first verse ends thus:

Haste to the battle, quick to the field;
Truth is our helmet, buckler, and shield.
Stand by our colors; proudly they wave!
We're joyfully, joyfully marching to our ----

And of course we kids would always belt out "GRA-AVE!" -- which, unlike the printed lyric, "home," at least rhymes. It was supposed to be a joke -- imagine joyfully marching to one's grave! -- but I actually think it's better than the New Golden Chain version in terms of both rhyme and reason. Johnny comes marching home again when the war is over, not when he's hasting to the battle. And countless martyrs have joyfully marched to their grave.

Only the first verse features this subverted rhyme. Is it possible that this not mere ineptitude on the part of our anonymous Sabbath School Melodian but rather an intentional evocation of the unspoken ghost-rhyme "grave" -- like the evocation of "hell" in "I Worry So for Dear Old Bill"?


In the Norse myth of Ragnarok the prophecy is that, at the end, the gods will fight the giants; and will lose. So why do the gods fight?

The gods fight because that is how they win.



The gods are Men - the giants are demons. 

Ragnarok is the final battle of the spiritual war on earth. 

And Men will lose the last battle - on earth. 

(How could it be otherwise? The giants are just too powerful.)



But choosing to fight against the giants, the demons; we win in Heaven, and eternally.

So - like the Norse gods; we prepare for Ragnarok.  

We are all enlisted till the conflict is o'er -- and at the material level, yes, we are marching to our grave. Defeat is assured. At the spiritual level, though, the true destination of our march is God, who is our home.


Note: Checking William Wildblood's blog, I find a new post, "Be Cheerful." Something in the air.

Monday, June 28, 2021

It's official: The right is now hip, and the left is square

Remember The Onion? Apparently they're still around. Here's a sample of their latest wit.


Haha, get it? Now here's the Bee's take on the same story.


Absolutely pitch-perfect. Even back when The Onion was funny, they mostly just did funny headlines, and the rest of the story was filler. The Bee at the top of its game -- i.e., right now -- is better than The Onion ever was.

Another time of waiting

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

-- Revelation 8:1

There's that waiting-for-something-to-happen feeling in the air again, as if something big is about to go down. Obvious candidates include the return of Trump, with all the associated ramifications; and the dawning realization of what the pecks really are. I think there's something else, though, something completely unexpected like, I don't know, a gigantic volcanic eruption or something. (That's just the first image that came to mind -- not, I think, a literal premonition.) Anything could happen, and the sync fairies aren't giving me any clues.

I sense that what I need to do right now is to disengage further from current events, and also from pre-planned projects of mine like making my way through the Fourth Gospel, and spend more time contemplating and synthesizing. I will likely be reading and commenting on other blogs less than usual, and writing either fewer posts than usual or else very different sorts of posts.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Don't drink the Kool-Aid

A reader sent me this Calvin and Hobbes comic strip (from August 17, 1989), with the subject line "Calvin predicts the peck."


Calvin's original plan is to charge people to drink his "curative elixir," but in the end he decides to call it a "debilitating disease drink" and charge people not to drink it. The joke relies on the commonsense understanding that people are willing to pay to get something good, but that anything they're willing to pay not to get must be bad.

The 2020s, however, are stranger than fiction. We are told that the birdemic peck is totally safe, offers protection against a deadly disease that cannot be treated in any other way, and is obviously in everyone's own self-interest to get -- and that people need to be bribed with donuts and joints and lottery tickets to get it, and penalized if they don't. The message is, essentially, "Calvin's curative elixir: $1.00 not to have any." 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Mirror dreams

René Magritte, La Reproduction interdite (1937)

To the ones who have slipped into the mirror . . .

Two dreams last night that felt significant.

In the first, I was wearing a suit and tie (something I have not done in the real world in nearly 20 years) and looking in the mirror, and I noticed that some trick of the reflection made it look as if my head was not attached to my neck but was instead perched on my right shoulder. "Hey, I look like St. Denis!" I thought to myself, and I decided I should take a photo of this funny-looking reflection. Before I could do so, though, I noticed another oddity: that the mirror was reflecting the back of my torso rather than my front. I realized that to get the proper effect -- guy with his head on his shoulder -- I would have to take off my jacket, tie, and shirt and put them all back on back-to-front. As I was about to do this, the dream faded out.

In the second dream, I walked into a room that seemed vaguely eightiesy in terms of decor and sat down on a brown plaid sofa. In front of me was an appropriately "period" CRT television. It was turned on, but I didn't really notice what was playing because I was preoccupied with something else: the reflection on the glass surface of the screen. It was a reflection of me, sitting on the sofa -- but wearing different clothes! And although I was alone on the sofa, the reflection on the TV screen showed a woman sitting next to me. (I thought of her in the dream as "my sister," but she looked exactly like my wife.) I realized that I was not seeing my current reflection but rather a reflection of some previous time I had been in the same room. Somehow the TV had recorded my reflection and was now playing it back. I thought, How is that even possible? How can a glass surface record or store a reflection? But there it was. And then I started to panic, thinking -- Could any of my old reflections be played back on this TV, for anyone who happens to come in and turn it on? Had I ever done anything embarrassing in this room? Anything private? Anything wrong?

And I woke up.

Using daylight phases of the Moon to calculate the relative distance of the Sun and the Moon

As everyone knows, the Moon is sometimes visible during the day, while the Sun is also in the sky. Suppose you look up sometime during the day and see a half-moon in the sky. The Sun is also in the sky, separated from the Moon by 45 degrees of arc. What can you conclude from this?

In the above diagram, the vertical ray (using that word in the geometric, not the optical, sense) represents all possible locations of the Moon. (Since we are supposing we do not know how far the Moon is from the Earth, it could in principle be at any point along the ray.) The diagonal ray represents all possible locations of the Sun when it appears from Earth to be 45 degrees distant from the Moon. The horizontal ray extending out from the Moon represents all possible locations of the Sun which would cause a half-moon to be visible from Earth. Therefore, if you see a half-moon 45 degrees from the Sun, you can conclude that the Sun is 1.414 (the square root of two) times as far from the Earth as the Moon is -- and that therefore everything you know about astronomy is wrong, since astronomers tells us the Sun is approximately 395.5 times as far from Earth as the Moon is.

If that figure is correct, what should be the angular distance between the Sun and a half-moon? Well, it must be less than 90 degrees, since the red ray (representing the Sun at 90 degrees from the Moon) is parallel to, and thus never intersects, the half-moon ray. But, since 395.5 is a very large number, it must be only a little less than 90 degrees. I've forgotten all my trigonometry, so I'll leave the exact figure as an exercise for the reader.

Update: I've just realized the flaw in this reasoning -- that it applies only when the Moon is directly overhead. The angular elevation of the Moon must be included in the equation, not only its angular distance from the Sun.

Update 2: No, on second thought, I think I was right the first time.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Juneteenth National Independence Day

I know, I know, I should just pass over this one in silence -- but I'm an English teacher, dammit, and I just can't not say something about that name!

No, I don't mean the Juneteenth bit, though lots of people are complaining that it's lazy or illiterate or mushmouthed or whatever. Do I care about this? No, I do not. I'm down with Halloween and workaholic and Frappuccino and all manner of other morphological rannygazoo. If anyone wants to start calling Cinco de Mayo Mayfth, they have my blessing. No, my beef is with the rest of it.

Some variant on Independence Day could have worked. A slave is a dependent, and on June 19, 1865, the last members of this particular class of dependents were emancipated and became personally independent. Personal Independence Day might have been a good name, to distinguish it from the Fourth of July and to connect it to the lives of modern people who have never been slaves. It could be a day to remember and celebrate personal independence, agency, and the responsibility to make one's own decisions and pull one's own weight.

But of course that's just about the last thing They want the holiday to be about, and calling it Racism Is Bad Day would be a bit too obvious.

I'm told that Black Independence Day is one of the holiday's informal names. Since the people who became (personally) independent on that day were black, I suppose that works. But that makes it sound like a holiday for black people, and They want it to be celebrated by everyone, even if they're not black. Especially if they're not black. So I guess that was the "thinking," such as it was, behind the decision to go with National Independence Day instead.

The problem, of course, is that "national independence" doesn't actually mean that.

An independent country isn't a country in which each adult citizen is personally independent; that's called a free country. (National Freedom Day could have worked.) An independent country is a country which is itself independent of other countries, regardless of how free its citizens and subjects peoples may or may not be. North Korea is an independent country. Nazi Germany was an independent country. National independence has absolutely nothing to do with not owning slaves. In fact, national independence -- so that they could continue to own slaves -- is precisely what the Confederacy was fighting for in the American Civil War!

No nation became independent on June 19, 1865. The United States had already been an independent nation for -- well, I guess by then it was fourscore and nine years -- and did not become any more nationally independent when the slaves were freed. I mean, it's not as if the American slaves had belonged to King George or something. Nor did the emancipated slaves gain national independence on that day; they continued to be under the government and sovereignty of the United States of America, as before.

I mentioned North Korea before, and I guess it's a perfect example of the same kind of thing. There are two countries on the Korean Peninsula: the Republic of Korea, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Which one is a democratic (as opposed to dictatorial) republic? The one that doesn't have the word democratic in its name.

There are now two Independence Days on the United States calendar: Independence Day, and Juneteenth National Independence Day. Which one is about national (as opposed to personal) independence? The one that doesn't say that on the tin.

The DPRK of holidays.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Trump is not on our side


Frank Berger has recently posted on how he misjudged Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán as a potential good guy. Frank writes:

Poor discernment and judgement happens. I have discerned poorly many times in the past (I thought Orbán might be a force for good; I admired Jordan Peterson's stance against the trans agenda; etc.) and will likely do so many more times in the future. The key is repentance. Acknowledge your error in judgement, forgive yourself, and ask Christ to forgive you.

This reminds me that my last word on Trump on this blog has been "I stand with President Trump" and that I probably need to revisit and clarify that -- especially since I keep predicting that he will be reinstated, and predicting someone's victory is so often confused with endorsing that person. So here, for the record, is my current assessment of the President.


The good

  • No new wars: Huge achievement. Best, maybe, ever.
  • Only moderately antiracist: While still antiracist, he has condemned the most extreme expressions of that Satanic ideology, such as BLM and CRT.
  • Rejects climate alarmism: Openly calls it a "hoax," though he's occasionally hedged on that. Says he supports clean air, clean water, etc. (real environmentalism) while rejecting the carbon dioxide panic.
  • Controlled the border: He didn't actually build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, but he did a decent job of securing the border -- especially in contrast to what we're seeing now under Fake President Biden.
  • Won the election: And thus should be president whether you like him or not.


The bad

  • Not a Christian: Not that most politicans are.
  • Totally endorses the sexual revolution: Completely on board with the whole LPGABBQ thing.
  • Antiracist: More moderately than most politicians, but still antiracist.
  • Facilitated the birdemic: America fell to the global coup of 2020, and Trump did nothing to stop it. He pushed for the pecks and still pushes for them even now, his only complaint being that he's not being given enough credit for them. Absolutely no excuse for this. Epic fail.
  • Flubbed Jan. 6: Invited his supporters into what was pretty obviously a setup. Didn't pardon any of them.
  • Didn't drain the swamp: In fairness, this might actually be impossible.
  • Part of the swamp: Strong Gadianton ties -- most notably Roy Cohn; also Jeffrey "Terrific Guy" Epstein.


The verdict

He's obviously better than whoever or whatever is behind Fake President Biden, but that's a pretty low bar. Ultimately, he's not on our side. I admit it'll make me happy when he's back in power, but it certainly won't mean all our problems are solved. Any enthusiasm must be ruthlessly kept in perspective.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

No, not "UAP"

So tell me, you-a friends, or you-a foes?

There's been a push from the USG to rebrand UFOs as UAPs -- unidentified aerial phenomena. This is all kinds of lame for the following reasons:

  1. It's been immediately embraced by UFO buffs, defeating the presumed purpose of distancing "serious" discussion of UFOs from said buffs.
  2. The most common assumption about UFOs is that they are spaceships and thus not "aerial" at all.
  3. What are we supposed to call ufologists now? Uapologist sounds like someone who works for Campus Crusade for Christ.

Allow me to propose the adoption of a much cooler term coined by an appropriately "unidentified" (no byline) San Antonio Express-News reporter in a November 8, 1957 article:


Whatnik. Whatnik. Let it roll off your tongue a few times. What's not to like?


Shortly after composing the above post, but before publishing it, I saw a woman on the street wearing a T-shirt that said "Daymare Town." This caught my eye because the sync fairies recently drew my attention to the Piers Anthony novel Night Mare -- which, like many Piers Anthony novels, is constructed entirely of bad puns. The main character is Mare Imbrium, one of many night mares that work for the Night Stallion and deliver bad dreams. At the end of the novel (spoiler alert, I guess), the Day Stallion appears, and Imbri is transformed into a day mare, henceforth to deliver "daydreams and pleasant evening dreams" instead.

Searching the Internet for daymare town, I find that it is the name of a series of games and comics created by someone named Mateusz Skutnik. Whatnik? Skutnik.

Names I always think are Pig Latin

  • Amway
  • Apple Pay
  • Enola Gay
  • Yrannosaurustay X-ray

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I don't think that's what "one another" means



Now, as a certified expert on English grammar -- I think I'll start calling it the grammar -- I know all about reciprocal pronoun constructions such as "one another" and can attest that the "shared vision" referred to in the headline should involve the LDS First Presidency learning from and serving the NAACP leaders and the NAACP leaders learning from and serving the LDS First Presidency. Reading the article, let's see how this will work out in detail.

The Church of Not Mormon Anymore will:
  • give $3 million of tithing money (donated by church members worldwide, about 98.5% of whom are not black Americans) to a college scholarship fund exclusively for "young black students in the United States"
  • provide $250,000 (also from tithing) to pay for black American students to study abroad in Ghana and "learn more about their heritage"
  • donate an additional $6 million of tithing funds to the NAACP to "bring relief to suffering souls in underprivileged [meaning black] areas of the United States"
In exchange for the CJCLDS's spending nearly $10 million on the Advancement of Colored People, the National Association for the same will present the Formerly Mormon Hierarchy with this:

(subject to revocation without notice)

Quite the bargain, don't you think?


Note added: For some reason, this post, with its focus on "race," made me think of a book I read as a very young child. It was about a dragon with a (trigger warning!) speech impediment, who would try to scare off robbers by shouting, "Wace! Wun! Wobbers be done! The tewwible dwagon is here!" It even occurred to me that I should start tagging posts about "anti" racist idiocy with "Wace! Wun! Wobbers be done!"

Then, in a truly bizarre synchronicity, I checked Vox Day's blog and found that the latest post was called "Hunting wacists" -- obviously an allusion to Elmer Fudd, but then he took the "wacist" thing and wan with it.

The problem, of course, is wacism. If only white Americans would stop being so wacist, black men would not have to hunt them and shoot them.

So stop being wacist. Or else.

Oh, by the way, we are reliably informed by Ivy League academics that all whites are inherently wacist. So, you know, good luck with all that not-wacisting. 

PS: avoiding people who are hunting you is also wacist. Nice try.

 Well, now that the sync fairies have spoken I can't very well not use that tag.

Two alien vegetable sellers

I recently quoted Whitley Strieber's account of seeing an alien apparently selling vegetables from door to door. Now I find one of Strieber's childhood friends reporting something very similar. Details at Winking Back from the Dark.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

What's the deal with Dallin H. Oaks?

Following some links on the Junior Ganymede led me into the world of Mormon Twitter. (I mean, I guess I knew some Mormons must be on Twitter, but I'd never really thought about it before.) I quickly discovered that Dallin H. Oaks is extremely popular with the #DezNat set and extremely unpopular with "progressive" Mormons. See, for example, these reactions to the news that the Saturday evening session of General Conference would be discontinued.


"OAKS MAN BAD" -- meaning that, apparently, progmos stereotypically hate Dallin H. Oaks in the same way that common-or-garden progressives hate Donald J. Trump. Conservative Mormons, on the other hand, dream of "an all Oaks session."

by Miss Briggie Youngz

So apparently President Oaks's current image is that of "the hardliner that progressives love to hate" -- filling a role left vacant with the death of Boyd K. Packer in 2015.

I find this strange because I had singled Oaks out as the most converged ("progressive") current leader in the CJCLDS. Search lds.org for global warming, and all you get is Dallin H. Oaks. Search it for George Floyd or black lives matter, and it's -- oops! -- all Dallin again. Try LGBT, and -- hey, what a coincidence! As documented in the linked post, President Oaks has dissed Trump, pushed climate alarmism, quoted the NAACP with approval, said "we must do better to help root out racism," and called BLM "an eternal truth all reasonable people should support."


So how is it that this same person somehow ended up being a progmo bugaboo and #DezNat's favorite apostle? Any insight from my Mormon and/or CJCLDS-affiliated readers?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Cucurbits from an alien land

A real book, owned by my brother; not from a dream

Cucurbits are members of the family Cucurbitaceae, including gourds, melons, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc. (This post has nothing to do with the book shown above; I just love the fact that it exists.)

Sinawava's watermelons

In a June 11 post, I mentioned a story Timothy Greenfield-Sanders told Whitley Strieber about encountering an alien on the road, and said it reminded me of an anecdote I heard (back in 1998) about a Ute Indian's encounter with the god Sinawava.

This anecdote from Greenfield-Sanders also reminds me now of a story I heard a long time ago about a Ute Indian's encounter on the road with a person he took to be Sinawava, a tribal deity known as "he who leaves footprints of light." I heard this secondhand from Stan Bronson of Blanding, Utah, a historian of the Ute tribe. (Bronson believed that Sinawava is the same person as Jesus Christ.) As I recall, Sinawava also asked the Ute which direction he was traveling and expressed approval of the answer. I think Sinawava was also carrying some watermelons, which he offered to the Ute -- recalling an incident in one of Strieber's books where alien "visitors" show up at Michael Talbot's door with a bag of pumpkins.

I have so far been unsuccessful in my attempts to track down Stan Bronson and verify the details of this story. 

Alien with squash

Squash, not pumpkins. I'd remembered the story wrong.

This is from Whitley Strieber's book Breakthrough (1995). Strieber is writing about an incident that occurred at his cabin in August 1991. He had invited a group of houseguests for the weekend, including the writer Michael Talbot (who would die less than a year later). Strieber wakes up at about five a.m., hears Talbot's voice, goes downstairs, and sees him at the door.

There was a shadow out there. I could see it clearly. It shocked me, because the likelihood of a stranger appearing at our door in this rather isolated area at five in the morning was vanishingly small. Then I saw that the figure was very thin, and seemed to have a huge head.

The idea that this was a visitor certainly hadn't crossed Michael's mind. . . . Then I heard him say, "are you trying to sell those vegetables?"

It stunned me practically senseless. Then I saw that the visitor was holding a big paper shopping bag full of squash.

When I realized that Michael thought he was dealing with a bag lady or a beggar, I became embarrassed, whereupon there followed the most hilarious moment in my whole experience with the visitors.

"Don't you realize that could be the creator of mankind," I hissed, wildly overstating the case in order to make him act more dignified.

Barely glancing at me, he muttered, "She's dead broke."

"She can't be dead broke," I said, "she owns the world!"

"I'd give you three dollars for the squash," he said through the door, "but I don't have my wallet."

Later that morning, Talbot reports the whole experience as a dream, but Strieber assures him that it really happened, explaining, "Somewhere along the line I got the impression that she personally conceived of the human race."

Descartes's dream

Kevin McCall alerted me to the fact that Descartes had dreamed about "melons from a foreign land." I quote from Alice Browne, "Descartes's Dreams," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes Vol. 40 (1977), pp. 256-260.

On the night of 10-11 November 1619 Descartes, then aged twenty-three, had three dreams which he considered came from on high, and took the trouble to write down and interpret in some detail. Unfortunately his own account of them is not extant; but the account given by Baillet in his Vie de Mr. Des-Cartes, from which I shall be quoting, can be taken as fairly close to Descartes's own.

And here is Browne's translation of Baillet's account of Descartes's first dream:

After he fell asleep, his imagination was struck by the representation of some ghosts which appeared to him, and which terrified him so much that, thinking he was walking in the streets, he had to lean to his left-hand side to be able to reach the place where he wanted to go, because he felt a great weakness on his right-hand side, on account of which he could not hold himself up. Ashamed to be walking in this way, he made an effort to straighten himself; but he felt a violent wind which, carrying him off in a sort of whirlwind, made him spin three or four times on his left foot. Even this was not what terrified him. The difficulty he had in dragging himself along made him fear that he would fall at every step, until noticing a school open along his way, he went in to find a refuge, and a remedy for his trouble. He tried to reach the school Church, where his first thought was to go and pray; but, noticing that he had passed a man he knew without greeting him, he wanted to turn back to pay his respects to him, and was pushed violently by the wind, which was blowing against the Church. At the same time he saw in the middle of the school courtyard another person, who addressed him by name, in civil and obliging terms, and told him that if he wanted to go and see Monsieur N., he had something to give him. M. Descartes imagined that it was a melon which had been brought from some foreign country. But what surprised him more was seeing that those who gathered round him with this person to talk were upright and steady on their feet, although he was still bent and staggering on the same ground, and the wind, which had nearly overthrown him several times, was greatly diminished. He woke up . . . .

Gourd realm

I recently reread the Piers Anthony novel Night Mare. In the novel, the night mares -- who are actual mares, female horses, and are named after lava plains on the moon (Mare Imbrium, Mare Vaporum, etc.) -- live in the "gourd realm." This is the world of dreams, so called because there is a kind of gourd (the "hypnogourd") through which it can be accessed. Mortals who look into the peephole of a hypnogourd become trapped in the gourd realm, but night mares can move in and out of it freely.

Melon trees on the moon?

I seem to recall that some early modern figure said that he had looked at the moon with a telescope and seen life there, including trees that bore melons which were the primary food of the lunar inhabitants. These inhabitants may, if memory serves, have been something like bears. I can't remember who said this and haven't been able to find the account anywhere.

Ring a bell, anyone? Leave a comment.

UPDATE: I may have been thinking of a series of six articles published in the New York Sun in 1835, supposedly reporting the discoveries of John Herschel but actually written by Sun reporter Richard Locke. These articles are now known collectively as the Moon Hoax.

Dr. Herschel has classified not less than thirty-eight species of forest trees, and nearly twice this number of plants, found in this tract alone, which are widely different to those found in more equatorial latitudes. Of animals, he classified nine species of mammalia, and five of ovipara. Among the former is a small kind of rein-deer, the elk, the moose, the horned bear, and the biped beaver. The last resembles the beaver of the earth in every other respect than in its destitution of a tail, and its invariable habit of walking upon only two feet. It carries its young in its arms like a human being, and moves with an easy gliding motion. Its huts are constructed better and higher than those of many tribes of human savages, and from the appearance of smoke in nearly all of them, there is no doubt of its being acquainted with the use of fire. . . .

We here first noticed the lunar palm-tree, which differs from that of our tropical latitudes only in the peculiarity of very large crimson flowers, instead of the spadix protruded from the common calyx. We, however, perceived no fruit on any specimens we saw: a circumstance which we attempted to account for from the great (theoretical) extremes in the lunar climate. On a curious kind of tree-melon we nevertheless saw fruit in great abundance, and in every stage of inception and maturity (pp. 32-33).

Other cucurbits also put in an appearance.

Immediately on the outer border of the wood which surrounded, at the distance of half a mile, the eminence on which the first of these temples stood, we saw several detached assemblies of beings whom we instantly recognized to be of the same species as our winged friends of the Ruby Colosseum near the lake Langrenus. Having adjusted the instrument for a minute examination, we found that nearly all the individuals in these groups were of a larger stature than the former specimens, less dark in color, and in every respect an improved variety of the race. They were chiefly engaged in eating a large yellow fruit like a gourd, sections of which they divided with their fingers, and ate with rather uncouth voracity, throwing away the rind. A smaller red fruit, shaped like a cucumber, which we had often seen pendant from trees having a broad dark leaf, was also lying in heaps in the centre of several of the festive groups; but the only use they appeared to make of it was sucking its juice, after rolling it between the palms of their hands and nibbling off an end (p. 44-45).

These are the only fruits mentioned in the Moon Hoax article -- cucurbits all! 

And . . . the New York Times!

This article, published under the byline Joe Schmoe, inexplicably appeared on the NYT page on June 8, 2021. It was quickly taken down, with no explanation other than that it had been "published in error."

I found this today by complete chance, while searching Twitter for tweets about Dallin H. Oaks.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Synchronicity: The locusts of Joel, and the traveling man

The synchronicity fairies have been drawing my attention to the biblical Book of Joel recently, as I mentioned in my post on last month's lunar eclipse:

The lunar eclipse ("blood moon") made me think of this solar eclipse, and the combination of the two made me think of the second chapter of Joel: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 2:31).

A few days ago, I was looking through this blog's drafts folder, found an old unfinished post called "Do the locusts have a king?" [since finished] and started working on it again. It begins by quoting the bit about the locusts in Revelation 9, mentioning parenthetically that John had pinched his imagery from Joel 2.

(There was a solar eclipse yesterday, by the way, but it was not visible in Taiwan.)

Yesterday, I checked John C. Wright's blog and found this Prayer Request:

Time for a Prayer:
Father, we ask you to Thwart the plans of those who wish to destroy our Republic.
Deliver us from Marxism.
Preserve our Republic.
O God of Justice and Judgment, bring back President Trump to his rightful place.
Restore what the locust has eaten.
Be exalted, in Jesus name, Amen.

The line I have bolded is an allusion to, you guessed it, the second chapter of Joel: "And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:25). The full text of that verse lists various types of locusts:

Then I will compensate you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust --
My great army which I sent among you (NASB).

When I was a kid in Ohio, we had names for all the different local species of grasshopper. The small green ones were called Green Guys. The ones with red legs were Pigeons. The kind that are part green and part brown were called, for reasons that remain obscure, Breakfast at Tiffany's. The biggest, baddest kind, with rough sand-colored armor and chattering wings, were called Lokeys -- from locust.

I note from online ads that a TV series called Loki -- featuring the Norse god turned comic-book character, Thor's brother -- premiered a day or two ago.


In another recent post, I relate an encounter with a cabbage butterfly which inexplicably made me think of a Masonic dialogue about traveling from west to east.

As I looked at the butterfly, a question suddenly popped into my head out of nowhere: Are you a traveling man? -- quickly followed by the rest of this stock Masonic dialogue: Yes I am. Traveling where? From west to east.

In that post, I also connected this butterfly with some material from Whitley Strieber's book The Afterlife Revolution, and with a "Masonic" incident in one of his other books.

Yesterday I was once again going through my blog's drafts folder and found one called "The nihilism of Strieber's mature vision." To complete it, I needed to track down some quotes from one of his more recent books, but I wasn't entirely sure which book it was. I decided to begin by rereading Solving the Communion Enigma (2012) first. So far it doesn't have what I'm looking for, but today I read this. Strieber is talking about leaving behind his cabin in upstate New York and moving back to his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

As we drove down the highway on that sad morning, my cell phone rang. It was an old, dear friend, the filmmaker and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who had been the first person I'd told about my 1985 encounter. . . .

Now he said, "Whitley, I just saw your woman, the [alien] woman on the cover of Communion. She came up to my car and leaned in the window while I was stuck in traffic on Fourteenth Street. . . . She asked me if I was going west. I said, 'No, I'm going east,' and she said, 'Well, that's good.'"

I knew exactly what this meant. She was not only expressing gladness that Timothy was staying but also regret at my departure.

The passage I have bolded above was also highlighted by me the first time I read the book. Strieber connects it with his own move from New York to Texas, but I saw it as a Masonic reference. However, I had completely forgotten about it until I reread it just now.


This anecdote from Greenfield-Sanders also reminds me now of a story I heard a long time ago about a Ute Indian's encounter on the road with a person he took to be Sinawava, a tribal deity known as "he who leaves footprints of light." I heard this secondhand from Stan Bronson of Blanding, Utah, a historian of the Ute tribe. (Bronson believed that Sinawava is the same person as Jesus Christ.) As I recall, Sinawava also asked the Ute which direction he was traveling and expressed approval of the answer. I think Sinawava was also carrying some watermelons, which he offered to the Ute -- recalling an incident in one of Strieber's books where alien "visitors" show up at Michael Talbot's door with a bag of pumpkins. My memory of the anecdote is a bit hazy, so I suppose I should try to track down Mr. Bronson, if he's still around.

The strange plan to capture the muscae volitantes

Like most people, I have muscae volitantes ("floaters") in my vitreous humor, and I have been aware of them from a very early age. Noticing floaters is apparently rare enough that there is a medical term for it: myodesopsia; for the non-noticers among my readers, they look like little transparent wormy things that float around in the visual field and are generally invisible unless you deliberately pay attention to them.

When I was very young -- approximately three years old, I think -- I somehow got it into my head that I could catch these little invisible critters and make them less invisible. (I thought of them as something "out there" in the world, but which only I could see, and had no name for them.) I had a very clear image in my head of what equipment I would need to do this:


This is a piece of brown corrugated cardboard, to be cut from a box. The rainbow stripes were to be applied in crayon. As you can see, the whole left half was to be rainbow-striped, while on the right the colors would be applied only to this shape. The mental image of this was extremely clear, like a photographic memory, although I never actually made it. It was an image of what I needed to make.

The most important component, though, was plastic wrap. Stretching a piece of plastic wrap over the crayoned cardboard would cause the floaters to become trapped under the plastic, and the rainbow colors would be transferred to them, so that they would no longer be transparent and nearly invisible but all rainbowy and clearly visible to all. I'm not sure what I was going to do with them once I had caught them -- Keep them trapped? Release them into the wild? -- but I could cross that bridge when I came to it.

First, though, I needed some plastic wrap. I needed that first, because if I colored a piece of cardboard and then asked my mom for some plastic wrap to cover it with, she would obviously not agree. So, before doing anything else, I went and asked her, "Mom, do we have any plastic?"

She asked what kind of plastic, and I said just plastic, and she explained that there were many different kinds, pointing out various objects in the house that were made of plastic. I finally made her understand the kind I wanted, and that is when the term plastic wrap first entered my vocabulary.

Then, of course, she asked what I wanted it for -- and I was at a loss to explain. I mean, communicating the concept of "plastic wrap" had been difficult enough. How was I supposed to explain the things that I wanted to catch and how I intended to catch them? So I said something unconvincing -- something along the lines of "I don't know" -- and failed to score the plastic wrap, and the whole plan fizzled out.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Dream fragment

I was going to be in a movie written and directed by a friend (no one I know in real life), and we were talking about it beforehand. All I remember is this little exchange:

"I hope you don’t expect me to deliver lines like 'I would never say that, wink wink, judge judge.'"

"That was an email, not the script."

"Still."

I think that has a legitimately Hollywoody ring to it. My subconscious is getting better at this.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Mormon recessional

Empty interior of the abandoned Kirtland Temple

A recessional is a closing hymn, marking the end of a church service. It is also the title of Rudyard Kipling's inspired poem of 1897, which -- although it is about the British Empire, written at its height and prescient of its end -- has long been part of the Mormon hymnal, under the title "God of Our Fathers, Known of Old."

In a post with the very appropriate title "The Singing Has Ended," John Mansfield of the Junior Ganymede writes:

What would a dwindling, a withdrawal of priesthood from the world and the church look like that is different from the ministry of Russell Nelson as president of the church? A sad, inglorious task to be given, but in sad, inglorious times some obedient son oversees the withdrawal of gifts.

Predictably, there is some obligatory looking-on-the-bright-side in the comments. One Michael Towns writes:

Of course, I recognize that we live in dark times. I acknowledge that. But I can’t agree with the idea that priesthood is being withdrawn from the world . . . . How many temples are being constructed right now? Seems to me the priesthood is advancing, not dwindling.

Mansfield, though, remains clear-eyed.

If, in a coming decade, it should be decided that since women perform many great roles (wife, mother, missionary, temple worker) without holding priesthood office, there is really no reason for most men to be ordained priests or elders, people will wonder then why I should care, and think my feelings of loss are nothing more than sentimental attachment to old-timey window dressing and scaffolding. I’m getting pretty used to that response.

The church age has ended. Institutional Christianity has done its work. The future, for the followers of Jesus, lies in a different direction. Is every church doomed to the grotesque cancer of full-scale convergence and apostasy, or will a select few be permitted to withdraw from the world stage with something resembling dignity? Have I been too flippant with my "Satan popping on the apricot tree" tag? Is Russell M. Nelson, for all his faults, fundamentally an "obedient son overseeing the withdrawal of gifts"?

How consciously and intentionally I cannot know, but President Nelson does seem to be paving the way for a post-church Mormonism. "Home church" was being promoted even before the birdemic. Where in the past members were cautioned not to go beyond the official (carefully edited) church study manuals, now the unabridged Joseph Smith papers are available for free online, courtesy of that same church. Perhaps most significantly, Nelson's "rectification of names" campaign has released the word Mormon into the public domain. Like Christian, it is no longer the exclusive property of any institution. I can now freely say, "I am a Mormon," with no need to clarify that I am not affiliated with President Nelson's organization.

One thinks of the prophet Jeremiah, preaching that Babylon would win, that Jerusalem would fall, that the Lord would not save his people, and that they should not resist. When the Babylonians took charge, they treated Jeremiah very well, and it must have seemed to many Israelites that he had been a fifth-columnist all along -- but he was a prophet of God. Where President Nelson falls on the continuum from Jeremiah to Nebuchadnezzar is not for me to know, but in their different ways both Jeremiah and Nebuchadnezzar were instruments in the hand of God.

I grew up in Joseph Smith's old stomping grounds -- "Thompson, Ohio, home of Doctrine and Covenants Section 51," I used to say when Utahns asked where I was from. Today I was moved to reread the revelation that was my little town's claim to fame.

And thus I grant unto this people a privilege of organizing themselves according to my laws. And I consecrate unto them this land for a little season, until I, the Lord, shall provide for them otherwise, and command them to go hence; . . . And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life (D&C 51:15, 16, 19).

Look again at that picture of the Kirtland Temple, and think of when Joseph Smith himself used to stand at that pulpit while the congregation sang, "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning." Now it is a mere tourist attraction, owned by a completely converged once-Mormon organization that calls itself the Community of Christ, ordains women and performs same-sex "marriages," and operates out of a deliberately ugly "temple" that looks like a soft-serve ice-cream cone.

Kirtland was my backyard. Many a time have I walked those once-hallowed halls. Sometimes, when the mood is right, the ghosts of its glorious past make themselves manifest. One can see the Prophet and the cloven tongues of fire, feel the rushing mighty wind, hear the resounding chorus, "We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven, Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!"

But they are only ghosts. The singing has ended. Zion is fled.

Apollo, Dionysos, and the Ganymede model

Leonid Ilyukhin, Apollo and Dionysus (click to enlarge)

In "Scattered thoughts on the Ganymede model," I wrote:

The Birth of Tragedy . . . made me realize that another famous Nietzschean dichotomy may also be relevant: Apollinisch vs. Dionysisch. Isn't it obvious that Apollo is Devic/Ahrimanic in nature, while Dionysos is Ahuric/Luciferic?

Well, no, maybe it isn't obvious at all. Yesterday, I read this on the Junior Ganymede:

A few days ago we were talking about how the cool earthly virtues seemed chthonic and the hot heavenly virtues seemed apollonic.

G and I had been searching for suitable terminology for the two basic types of traits -- the one embracing the Devic virtues and Ahrimanic vice; and the other, the Ahuric virtues and Luciferic vices. G at first used the placeholder labels Type 1 and Type 2., typified as "virtues of control and discipline" vs. "virtues of passion and strength."  I proposed Cool and Hot. Other possibilities suggested on the Junior Ganymede included Yin and Yang, Lunar and Solar, Chthonic and Heavenly.


We can see now that these labels matter, that different labels cause us to categorize things differently. When I was using my original labels, it seemed obvious that Apollo was Devic and Dionysos was Ahuric. When G introduces his Type 1 and Type 2, it still seemed obvious that Apollo belonged on the "control and discipline" side of the ledger and Dionysos on the "passion and strength" side.

Introduce some of the other proposed labels, though, and the opposite classification becomes more intuitive. Obviously, Apollo is yang (sunlight) and Dionysos is yin (shadow). As a sun-god, Apollo is quite literally "solar" and "heavenly"; and Dionysos, while not literally one of the "chthonic" (underworld) gods, is clearly more "of the earth, earthy" than Apollo.

Did I put Apollo and Dionysos in the wrong columns, then? But how could I possibly put Dionysos -- Liber, Eleutherios, god of intoxication and frenzy -- under the heading "control and discipline"?

Monday, June 7, 2021

Can the 2021 birdemic beat the 2019 flu?

The latest stats from Taiwan:


2019:
  • Total deaths from flu and pneumonia: 15,715
  • Average deaths per day: 43

2021:

  • Total birdemic-attributed deaths so far: 260
  • Average deaths per day so far: 2
  • Average deaths in the last 7 days: 22
  • Additional deaths needed to beat 2019: 15,455
  • Average deaths needed per day for the rest of the year to beat 2019: 75


So can the birdemic beat the (completely unremarkable) flu of 2019? It's a long shot, but it's just possible.

Now, consider: If you asked people in 2019 how much more serious a disease would have to be than the seasonal flu to justify shutting the economy down for months, banning all social and religious gatherings, and making everyone wear masks everywhere, what do you think they would say? Twice as serious? Five times? Ten times? A hundred? Would they just laugh?

And if you mentioned that most other countries took all those crazy-extreme measures last year, against the same disease, and that it had no observable effect at all, then what would they say?

Taiwan, facing this fake crisis one year later than everyone else, has absolutely no excuse for not learning from the experience of every other country in the world.

Whitley Strieber's "new vision" of Jesus

Over at Winking Back from the Dark, I review Whitley Strieber's latest book, which is about Jesus. This will be of general interest to my Christian readers, not only to fellow Strieber enthusiasts.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

A butterfly Mason?


Sometimes I write something I think is just too bizarre to publish -- and then I usually publish it anyway, and as often as not I soon get an email from some stranger saying, "You too? What an amazing coincidence!"


Early this afternoon, I was sitting in my living room. We have a large window in the front, but it was a very sunny day and the curtains were drawn. Suddenly, my tomcat Geronimo (a highly accomplished jumper) got between the window and the curtain and started jumping up on the glass again and again like a maniac. My wife said there must be a bird or something outside, so I popped out to take a look.

It wasn't a bird; it was a white cabbage butterfly, steadily beating its wings and flying directly into the windowpane. The glass was of course an impassable barrier, but it wouldn't alter its course in the slightest, and the result was that it just sort of hovered there. Now everyone knows that a normal butterfly's flight path resembles that of a drunken skywriter. Straight lines are simply not in their repertoire; nor is this sort of persistence when confronted with an impassable obstacle. Nevertheless, it persisted.

As I looked at the butterfly, a question suddenly popped into my head out of nowhere: Are you a traveling man? -- quickly followed by the rest of this stock Masonic dialogue: Yes I am. Traveling where? From west to east. (I'm not a Freemason, but one picks up these things.) The feeling that I was somehow having this dialogue with the butterfly -- ridiculous on its face! -- was unmistakable. The whole time, the butterfly kept flying persistently straight into the windowpane, and on the other side of the glass, a highly neurotic tomcat kept bouncing up and down like a superball.

Finally I snapped out of whatever passing trance the butterfly had put me in and gently shooed it away from the window. It immediately resumed normal butterfly behavior, and the cat settled down.

Checking a compass later, I found that it had indeed been flying at a perfect 90-degree azimuth, from west to east.


The weird feeling that I had been "communicating" (if reciting a stock dialogue can be called that!) with the butterfly made me remember that last year I had experienced a synchronicity in connection with the idea that the spirits of the dead can appear as moths -- I had read about this in Whitley Strieber's Afterlife Revolution and then heard the same thing shortly thereafter from a Taiwanese associate. Well, I thought, this was a cabbage butterfly, not a moth, but it's close anyway.

When I looked up my old post about the moth synchronicity, though, I found something that I had forgotten. The post showed the cover of The Afterlife Revolution -- illustrated with a picture of a white cabbage butterfly!


I ended the post thus:

I wonder how common this association is? I know Aristotle used the same Greek word to refer both to the soul and to the cabbage butterfly. (By coincidence, this same species of non-moth appears to have been chosen by Strieber's entomologically confused cover illustrator.)

I had forgotten that about Aristotle, too, but he does in fact use the word psyche ("soul"), in History of Animals 5.19, as a name for those insects that arise "out of those caterpillars which arise on leaves of green, especially on those of the cabbage-plant."


Coming back to the ridiculous idea of a butterfly being a Mason, I remembered that Freemasonry's central symbol is the building of the Temple of Solomon, and that in the Rudyard Kipling story "The Butterfly That Stamped," a butterfly stamps its foot and makes King Solomon's palace (close enough!) disappear and then reappear. (It is actually Djinns that do this, but Solomon has arranged for them to make it look as if the butterfly is making it happen.)

Suleiman-bin-Daoud laughed so much that it was several minutes before he found breath enough to whisper to the Butterfly, "Stamp again, little brother. Give me back my Palace, most great magician." . . . So he stamped once more, and that instant the Djinns let down the Palace and the gardens, without even a bump.

Then I thought about the song "Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Foundations.


Building up foundations sounds like a mason's work, does it not? Buttercup is a bit like butterfly, but not quite close enough to be satisfying. Ah, but what's the very first thing Wikipedia has to say about the Foundations? "The Foundations were a British soul band." Soul = psyche = cabbage butterfly.


Since Whitley Strieber had entered into this synch-stream, I thought of his "nine knocks" incident, documented in Chapter 11 of his book Transformation (a synonym for butterfly-style metamorphosis). Strieber recounts how he was at home, reading an essay by John Gliedman about quantum entanglement, when he noticed that his two cats were beginning to behave strangely, as if they are terrified.

The cats' fear didn't make sense to me at all. I decided there must be some animal outside, perhaps a deer. I returned to Dr. Gleidman's essay.

I read the following sentence: "The mind is not the playwright of reality."

At that moment there came a knocking on the side of the house. This was substantial noise, very regular and sharp. The knocks were so exactly spaced that they sounded like they were being produced by a machine. Both cats were riveted with terror. They stared at the wall. The knocks went on, nine of them in three groups of three, followed by a tenth lighter double-knock that communicated an impression of finality.

In his book A New World, Strieber refers back to this incident and connects it with Freemasonry.

I cannot know if this was intended, but the knocks reflected a tradition in Masonry where when someone is elevated to the 33rd Degree, they knock in this way on the door of the hall before being admitted.

He repeats this assertion in The Super Natural.

Also, when entering the thirty-third degree, a Mason must knock on the door of the lodge nine times in three groups of three.

I know basically nothing about the higher degrees of Masonry, but certainly "three distinct knocks" is a thing, and it wouldn't be surprising if they sometimes did three groups of three. Anyway, the point here is that Strieber, just like me today, (1) saw his cats behaving strangely, (2) assumed it was because of an animal outside, and then instead (3) observed something which he connected with Masonic ritual.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A prediction

Later this summer, if it starts looking like Trump is going to be reinstated, the strategy of last resort -- the "nuclear option" -- will be to admit that the pecks are harmful, and to blame Trump.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Accepting the enemy's assumptions "for the sake of argument" is almost always a bad strategy.

"Liberals are the real racists" implies that "racism" is a coherent concept, and is bad.

"Maskies are the real science deniers" implies that the peer-reviewed "findings" of careerist researchers are the standard of truth.

"It takes way more faith to be an atheist than a Christian" implies that "faith" is something irrational and undesirable.

(On the other side, an atheist saying, "The Bible doesn't say anything about abortion," implies that the Bible is the source of moral standards.)

I know such statements are often an attempt to "meet people where they're at," or to prove something by argumentum a fortiori ("Even if I accept your assumptions, you're still wrong!"), but I think the actual effect of such rhetoric is almost always to further entrench assumptions that ought to be challenged directly.

Easy Without You

This is one of the most seamless mashups I've ever heard.